empresspatti (empresspatti) wrote,

Topkapi Palace

Mr. W and Son went to the local high school last Monday to help the Media Arts teacher. They spent the day updating equipment and generally being useful.

We haven’t been exposed to high school germs recently. My Son came down with a miserable cold immediately. He helpfully passed it on to me.

Today is the first day since last Thursday that I have been upright and coherent. I’m not exactly ready to live yet, but I can talk without feeling like my throat is falling out. I’m not sneezing and coughing nonstop. I was unconscious for a full 24 hours Saturday, rousing only to shower, wait for Mr. W to change the sheets and pass out again. I think I passed though the Valley of Death.

I can’t believe how exciting it is to be sitting on the family room couch. It feels like a big outing. Maybe I lost weight, what with the near death experience and all.



I’m almost done posting my Travel 2010 experiences. I don’t want to slight Istanbul. It was a beautiful, interesting, exciting place full of gracious people, great food and epic history.

Topkapi Palace was the seat of the Ottoman Empire, which at the height of its 16th & 17th century power, spanned three continents and controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. I was in !dork! history overload.

Americans tend to have a Disneyland idea of palaces. We imagine a huge building, with towers for sleeping princesses who tried to spin wool, surrounded by a moat.

Topkapi was nothing like I expected. It was vast. It wasn’t so much a principal building as a stone version of nomadic tented encampments, linked by enormous courtyards. The views span Europe and Asia, marking the meeting point of the Golden Horn, Bosphorus and Marmara Sea. It is the ultimate strategic position.

We spent the morning in the museum, which was STUNNING and renowned for treasures from Turkey and the Near East. This Goddess was one of 9000 favorite things we viewed.

I’ve always told Mr. W that when I die, I want to be cremated, put in a Chock Full o Nuts can and winged in the nearest dumpster. He pointed out that this was a better alternative.

We got so giggly anticipating my future burial that we decided to break for the best meal I’ve ever eaten, in a kabob place right outside of the palace. If I ever find the card for the restaurant, I’ll post it. I think I made their overeating wall of fame.

OK – there is no way I can truly take you through the wonder that is Topkapi, but here are some highlights.

I think the nice guard told me this was the Executioners Fountain. The Executioner was apparently a busy staff position, complete with really tall red hat and a fountain to wash the ax.

State Receiving Room and Throne.

Upper right is the calligraphy of Suleyman the Magnificent. I know zipola about the history of the Ottoman Sultans, but I can safely say he was really Big Cheeze. He had style, didn't he?

Baghdad Pavilion. The tilework is exquisite.

This is the ceiling of the Baghdad Pavilion.

The Sultan’s Quarters were stunning.

Sultan Potty

Door detail.

More great tile

Here is the Harem Courtyard

Harem Dancer tiles

Harem Window.

Everywhere I looked in the Harem unnerved me. The Sultan’s rooms were beautiful. The Valide Sultana’s (Sultan’s Momma) quarters and baths were stunning. Every window and door had bars and there was a whole series of rooms referred to as the ‘Cage.’ Sultans had their brothers confined to avoid succession challenges, hence the Staff Executioner. Topkapi Palace has a bloody history.

This is the Treasury. It was too dark and crowded inside to take photos (I hear the collective sigh of relief!). I wandered from room to room boggling at an endless variety of jewels the size of catcher’s mitts; jewel encrusted amour, swords and daggers, solid gold thrones, miniature portraits, ancient illustrated manuscripts, Imperial costumes (later year uniforms reminded me of Michael Jackson). It was loot, tribute and booty like Ali Baba’s treasure caves.

We wandered into the last pavilion kind of giddy – I hadn’t known that emeralds and sapphires grew to be the size of coffee tables. Then I realized that I was looking at the holiest relics of Islam.

Religious treasures included the Staff of Moses, hair, footprint and the golden shrine that used to contain the robes of the Prophet Mohammed, the gold covered forearm and hand of John the Baptist (I met him and Buddha in the same year!), the oldest existing Koran, written on deerskin and the golden cover of the Hacer-ül Esved stone, the black stone which fell from heaven within the Kaaba. I also think I saw the head covering of Joseph (the one who was sold into slavery by his 11 brothers and rose to be advisor to Pharaoh). I wish I had kept a list of the religious artifacts, but I didn’t think to as I was so busy boggling.

The whole time we were wandering around, a Muezzin was singing verses of the Koran. It was haunting and lovely, the perfect, respectful compliment to all the articles of faith surrounding us.

It made me realize how much common ground Christian, Jewish and Muslim culture and religion share. It was a very good lesson.

Humm – I might start calling Mr. W the Grand Vizier.
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